Doreen Cummings is the Director of Services for Mainstay Supportive Housing. This series explores different topics related to finding the right supportive housing for your loved one with intellectual or developmental disabilities. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are some of the different ways that families can pay to live in a Mainstay Supportive Home?
One of the biggest components in paying for Mainstay services is accessing all the public benefits that are out there as soon as your loved one turns 18. This means getting on the list to start tapping into Social Security funding and putting that money away for future housing needs. Also, signing up for the housing voucher list, which is a 10-year wait.
Families really need to be thoughtful about how to strategize for financing as their loved one goes into their teen years. Our program is a lot more affordable than sending a loved one to college. However, our model and other models are lifelong, so you need to be thoughtful about long-term financing. Start thinking about assets and putting money into an ABLE account, which is a tax-advantaged way to save for your loved ones without impacting their public benefits. Also, jump on some of those webinars that are out there that address how to plan.
Certainly, using a Section 8 housing voucher helps a lot with the rent. It allows residents to only pay 30 percent of their income toward rent instead of the actual rent. The housing authority is a big piece of this, even if it’s a 10-year wait, it’s still really important to get on those lists because the benefit is lifelong once you have it.
Social Security is one way that folks are paying for this. If a resident has a job, then that is another way they can pay. When a parent retires or passes away, the person can tap into their parent’s Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and in many instances that can increase the person’s income. With the SSDI and a housing voucher, the program almost pays for itself.
This is a private-pay model and families need to kick in. It’s generally not covered by all the public benefits alone. It is an all-inclusive, very affordable program compared to other residential models out there.
The third bucket of funding is the staffing. We tap into MassHealth, so that gives Mainstay about $1,300 a month to provide daily staffing for your loved one. The rent and the rental assistance, when you get it, tapping into Social Security Disability Income to pay for the services fee, and tapping into the MassHealth benefit to pay for the staffing—those are really the three components of the Mainstay budget.
Many people are probably not aware they can patch together public funding to cover a big portion of the expense?
It really is very thoughtful and very family friendly. When we put together the budget; we look very creatively into tapping into every public benefit that we can to pay for the services. We understand many of these folks will not get Department of Developmental Services funding or Department of Mental Health residential funding – known as Priority One – where their housing will be paid for forever. We serve the people who are falling through the cracks. It was definitely a mission from the beginning with this model to keep the cost as low as we can for families and individuals. We are a nonprofit with a mission, and we believe in the housing model. We believe folks should have a place to go to and not live with their parents forever, if they want to.
If people don’t know how to navigate the process, can Mainstay help them?
Absolutely, one of my job roles is to field calls from families and to try to get them on the right path to do meaningful future planning for their loved one. It really needs to be a perfect match for someone to move into any housing. We are here to talk with families and get them on the right path. Sometimes you need a real candid, frank conversation with someone to help them plan. Your next move is not your last move. This is not end-of-life care at Mainstay. But, certainly for the next 10 years, life is happening right now and we want to live life to the fullest so maybe Mainstay is the answer.